A house is left in ruins after the eruption of a mud volcano in
yesterday morning. This house was pushed over by the wall of mud
on the left.
Photo: STEPHEN AZIZ
By SUSAN GOSINE
A LARGE part of Piparo was yesterday declared a disaster area after
a mud volcano erupted and caused widespread damage that left 108 people
Three houses,more than a dozen vehicles and scores of farm animals,
poultry and house pets were buried under tons of gaseous grey mud
which spewed some 200 feet into the air when the volcano blew.
Eleven other houses were partially submerged under the mud. And several
others badly damaged by the tremors which accompanied the eruption.
More than 300 people within a one-mile radius of the volcano were
being evacuated up to late yesterday. A large contingent of national
police, community police, army and Fire Service personnel cordoned
off the area.
The 5 a.m eruption in the agricultural village in Central Trinidad
knocked out electricity and water supllies.Telephone contact was also
disrupted and the main road virtually disappeared.
Relief teams and security personnel had difficulty keeping villagers
and visitors,who rushed to the area, away from the volcano. Numerous
appeals were made to people to keep away from tilted houses and not
to attempt to salvage anything from partially damaged homes. Many
people ignored the police appeals and sought shelter from torrential
rain under the structures.
Asst Commissioner in charge of operations Norton Regist said "all
homes must be evacuated and people housed in the relief centres for
their safety". He stressed: "The area will be treated as
a disaster area because a natural disaster took place. Until the scientists
from the Seismic Unit declare the place safe for villagers to return
we will keep the area cordoned off."
Looking at the expanse of mud he shook his head and muttered: "That
is not over yet. We must get the all clear from the researchers before
people could return to their homes. " He said a team from the
Seismic Research Unit was on the site but had left by midday. Regist
said they had been contacted to return because tremors were being
felt at the site up to 9. a.m.
Agriculture Minister Reeza Mohammed and Education Minister Adesh Nanan
co-ordinated relief supplies and assisted with the evacuation exercise.
By midday, mattresses, clothing and food stuff were piling into the
Presbyterian church , school and community centres which were being
used as evacuation centres. Teams from National Emergency Management
Authority (NEMA), Trinidad and Tobago Emergency Mutual Scheme (TTEMAS),
the Red Cross , a group of Petrotrin geologists, Health Ministry officials,
members of the Seismic Research Unit and a group of students from
the University of the West Indies were on the scene.
Thirty-one families were displaced by the eruption .Fifteen cars,
four pick-up vans, some 15 cattle, 13 goats, scores of poultry and
pets buried .The early morning eruption sent residents screaming and
scampering in panic from the tumbling grey mud which pulled down electricity
poles, telephone wires, ripped apart pipe lines and knocked down huge
trees. A nearby temple, Aum Kar Hindu Temple, and convicted murderer
Dole Chadee's temple were cracked in several places.
Tombstones in the Piparo Cemetery tilted and fissures erupted along
the road for more than mile.
The eruption rocked areas for miles around .
Ralph Karim, 60, who lived closest to the volcano lost his home. Aziz
Khan, 27, and his eight-month pregnant wife, Serah, his brother Azim
Khan, 28,and his wife Assiam, neighbour, Jameela Sewak, and her three
children, who are on holidays in Guyana for the past month also lost
It was the second time in just over two weeks that the mud volcano
On the first occasion it left two large holes in the main road,cracks
more than 100 feet long in some places and vents from which spewed
sulphuric fumes.Several houses including Karim's were damaged.
SRU and NEMA officials visited the area then.Mud samples were collected
by the SRFU for laboratory testing at St.Augusatine.
A NEMA official said she did not believe there would be further "serious
eruptions" and had predicted that activity at the volcano would
"subside considerably" over the next few days.